Walking in Southern Scotland


The Southern Upland Way

The Southern Upland Way

The Southern Uplands

The Southern Uplands have been heavily remodelled and rounded by the effects of glaciation to leave a series of gently rolling hills with only a limited number of rocky outcrops. There are no summits above 3000ft (914m), but over 80 rise above 2000ft (61Om), offering some fine hill walking. The underlying rocks are chiefly sedimentary with some igneous intrusions in the Galloway Hills and further east where the Eildon Hills form a conspicuous landmark.

The Southern Upland Way

The Southern Upland Way traverses most of the major habitat types represented in southern Scotland. In the west, near Portpatrick, the route heads along the coastal cliffs before turning inland. Thereafter it passes through farmland, parkland, broadleaved and coniferous woodland, as well as open moorland and open sheepwalk. It skirts ponds and lochs, weaves along small upland burns, follows forest tracks and ancient drove roads, passes ruined castles and crosses over exposed hill summits. Eventually the North Sea is reached near Cockburnspath and once again coastal wildlife is evident.
The route goes against the grain of the country, crossing several major river systems, but the high moorland sections are soon relieved by the descents into the richer more diverse habitats of the valley bottoms. The pattern of habitat types is therefore repeated again and again and it is not essential to walk the whole route to experience the full range of wildlife.
Though the winter months need not be neglected the best time of year on the Way is usually between April and September. May and June are particularly good because spring flowers are at their best and birds are displaying and singing.
Right; Yellow Flag (Iris).

Coastal Sections

At each end of the Way there are short sections of the path along the cliff tops. Here the vegetation is quite different with masses of Sea Pinks and other flowers in the summer months attracting a greater range of butterflies than elsewhere on the route. Out at sea the most conspicuous large seabirds are the Gannets.

The Forests

Clatteringshaws loch

Much of the landscape adjacent to the Way is continually changing. Where the route passes through coniferous forest improvements are being made by openin up viewpoints and modifying the forest edges. When the mature trees are harvested, new planting schemes will be designed with the walker in mind, offerin a greater variety of tree species, more open space and here and there, where possible, small ponds may be created. Crossbills The conifers have their own specialist es of wildlife. Look out for Siskins and Common Crossbills feeding on the seeds and cones. Barn Owls hunt some of the open areas in the late evening and Short-eared Owls breed in the younger plantations usually flying about during the day.
Above; Clatteringshaws Loch.
Right; Crossbills.

Man in the Uplands

The open moorland sections owe their present appearance to man's activities: forest clearance and the introduction of cattle and sheep grazing. The grouse moors in the Leadhills and Lammermuirs are managed intensively to create the maximum number of Red Grouse for shooting on 12 August and the following weeks. By careful burning of small patches of heather a mosaic type habitat is created offering nutritious young shoots for the birds to feed on and larger plants for birds to find shelter and nest in.



Sheep on the hills are predominantly Scottish Blackface or Cheviots but other breeds and cross-bred sheep may be seen here and there along the Way. Look out for the Belted Galloway, an uncommon distinctive local breed kept for its beef and dairy value. The more numerous black or dun coloured Galloway Cattle are a different breed reared exclusively for beef production. Early in the year Ravens build large stick nests either on precipitous cliff faces or in tall isolated trees. They depend upon carrion for survival and have Wheatear declined locally because of improved sheep husbandry and a reduction in the total areas now managed for sheep. From late March to April the first Wheatears arrive in the hills after spending the winter in Africa. They are easily recognised by their conspicuous white rumps as they flit from boulder to boulder or perch upon the dykes.
Above; Emperor Moth.
Right; Wheatear.

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